July 12, 2010
There is a very strange custom found in Central India, among certain of the Gond people. According to the ritual it is acceptable for a human being to marry a dog. The Gond are aboriginal tribes, that still speak a fairly simplified set of unwritten languages. Their lifestyle, while not truly nomadic, tends not to have permanent settlements. Their villages are periodically moved to various sites on land which is owned by the whole clan. Their beliefs place them totally outside of the Hindu caste system. They do not acknowledge the superiority of Brahmans and don’t feel bound by many Hindu rules.
Their style of agriculture is quite simple and traditional, which basically involves slash-and-burn operations. So how does the marriage between humans and dogs play a role in this? Well, because they continually clear wild land, the Gond often encounter wild animals, and these encounters can be fatal to humans armed only with digging sticks. The Gond of the Bastar region of India believe that if a woman’s husband has been killed by a wild animal – especially a tiger- it is necessary for her to marry a dog, before she can take another husband.
The Gond believe that the dead husband’s spirit now inhabits the tiger or another beast that killed him, and this spirit will then cause that same beast to kill any new man that the woman marries. To solve this problem the widow first must ceremonially marry a dog. The dead husband’s spirit can then satisfy his jealousy be killing the dog, and he will not threaten the life of the new human husband. Although, this seems like a good outcome for the woman, I am sure, somewhere deep down, the dogs know that a simple divorce would be a better end to their marriage instead of the one the Gond envision for them!